Book By A.C. Highfield
from Carapace Press
This VHS Video & Booklet Package sells for $21.02 from Vidi-Herp online.
28 Page Booklet (Reviewed independently of the video
as a stand-alone care guide; it is sold with the video).
Compact but well-done booklet summarizing basic facts &
care of RES & painted turtles. Concise & well-written guide. It doesn’t have
frills like a hard cover or photo.s. I’ll lay out the framework & comment within
Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta) – It seems assumed the RES is
‘the species,’ with many subspecies. In other works I’ve seen most call the
species ‘the slider’ and the RES a subspecies within that (along with the YBS,
Cumberland, etc…). He says males rarely reach a carapace over 7”; I’ve seen some
wild males I think would dispute that, & I suspect the nutritionally and
thermally optical conditions of captive care will produce larger individuals,
but I can’t prove that. He gives the rough sizes at which sexual maturity is
reached & time course in nature to reach those sizes, questions people often ask
(& a real plus).
Painted Turtles – He just lists as one species (which it is,
Chrysemys picta), without regard to the fact the 4 subspecies differ radically.
The Southern & Western painteds are the opposite extremes & quite different in
size & appearance. An unfortunate omission. He states their care is in practical
terms identical to RES, but that if both are kept the species should be separate
because Painteds don’t have good survival rates in mixed tanks or ponds, & may
get fetal skin, shell & respiratory infections. This is a departure from most
forum lore, which is that painteds are hardy & make fine community turtles. I
have on rare occasion seen similar claims that painteds aren’t quite as hardy
for mixed environments, so Highfield isn’t the only one out there who thinks
The Turtle Tank: Water Area – He notes the water section doesn’t
need to be very deep. That may be, but given their natural habitats I’d like
to’ve seen a recommendation to give them as deep an area in part of the
enclosure as practical. He does write on some benefits of higher volume & lower
stocking density. My main criticism of the section is that it does not give
recommended enclosure sizes (in gallons) for a given adult species & # of
turtles (such as the minimum aquarium sizes for 1 or 2 male (I’d say 75 gallons
for 1) or female (I’d say 100 gallons) RES. People should know there’s a
difference between a male Southern Painted & a female RES in tank requirement.
The Turtle Tank: Land Area – good little section, & even mentions
the issue or providing an area females can lay (& that they can develop eggs
without males present!).
The Turtle Tank: Lighting – Excellent concise discussion. He
recommends the ReptiSun 5.0 at one point, and I applaud his departure from the
highly irritating unwillingness of some authors to endorse a specific brand name
product. Discusses Vit. D3, other benefits of this lighting that aren’t common
knowledge, and mentions the issue of whether it’s needed if dietary D3
supplements are included.
The Turtle Tank: Heating – Excellent section. Discusses water and
air temperature issues, and safety issues (ground fault interrupter use, that
heaters can burn turtles, etc…). It recommends a protector cage be used around a
submersible heater; I wish he’s mentioned the Tronic heater guards (also fit Ebo
Jager heaters). I’m impressed with this section.
The Turtle Tank: Stocking Density – he makes the case for why you
shouldn’t over stock a tank; a great point, but he doesn’t lay out examples (how
many RES in a 125 gallon tank, etc…). He recommends not mixing species in an
enclosure & gives reasons; most of us do it anyway, but his points are worth
The Turtle Tank: Plants & Decorations – Nice section & gives some
live plant options to use, but only mentions high light requirement in one of
the 3 plants given that I believe require much higher light levels than many
turtle owners offer. I had bad results trying to keep water hyacinth indoors; it
did poorly & those black feathery rootlets were littering my tank. Maybe he had
The Turtle Tank: Filtration & Turtle Tanks – About the best
discussion of undergravel filter use in turtle keeping I’ve seen (even mentions
the gravel ingestion issue). Very good discussion of internal canister filters.
On external canister filters he dates himself by noting the consistent success
of the Fluval 403 (the x04 line has replace the x04 line) & he states external
filters are usually fed by pipes from the tank. That sounds more like how
wet/dry filters are set up and most modern canister filters (FilStar XP3, Fluval
404, Eheim Pro II 2028, etc…) I’ve seen use over-the-tank-rim hoses. He
encourages ‘the larger the better’ in filter capacity but doesn’t explain just
what capacity to plan for (whereas we tell people 2 to 3 times what a fish tank
would get). One odd omission; he said nothing about power filters (i.e.:
AquaClear, Whisper, TetraTec, etc…). There are people who have customized their
setups to use these effectively. Even if he disapproves of their use, a mention
would’ve been good.
The Turtle Tank: Water Changes – well
alllllllll-riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight. Glad to see he’s pushing these. This section
doesn’t really discuss much about WHY (nitrate concentration, dissolved organic
compounds, increasing hardness from topping off evaporative losses with tap
water, etc…) but at least he endorses the practice. The booklet mentions a
non-drip quick change system shown in the video, but doesn’t itself specify
options (Python, gravel vacuum, etc…).
The Turtle Tank: UV Sterilizers – especially for pond algae
control. Good to see he remembered the pond people.
The Turtle Tank: Outdoor & Indoor Turtle Ponds – Nice overview. I
wish he’d given recommended pond dimensions by species & # kept as a rough
guideline; for example, how many gallons minimum for 5 adult RES (2 male, 3
female). This varies with a # of factors (live plants, fish, oxygenation levels,
filtration, etc…) but a guideline would’ve been nice. He talks about securing
the pond perimeter to prevent turtles escaping & recommends against releasing
small turtles into the pond since large birds (particularly herons) may view
them as prey. I wish he’d mentioned that you must consider other area predators
(in the U.S. dogs, cats, neighborhood children, raccoon, opossum, coyote, fox,
skunk) – some of these creatures can kill a larger turtle. I’d like to’ve seen
depth recommendations, too. For example, forum regular Wendy keeps a large # of
RES outdoors during Summer. She found providing pond areas over 1 foot deep
provided protection from raccoons; the ‘coons would go no deeper, & the turtles
slept in the deeper section.
The Turtle Tank: Outdoor Ponds & Hibernation – Fine section.
Covers issues like the importance of watery oxygenation & pond surface area.
Feeding Turtles – This is a topic a number of pet care guides do a
bad job of. So do the instructions on commercial turtle food labels. Highfield
is a well-known leader in bringing sound feeding theory to the masses & those of
you who’ve read his other works will recognize the info. & style here. Excellent
section, detailing one of Highfield’s true strengths.
Feeding Quantity & Frequency – Great to see the problem of
over-feeding discussed; too many published works (and those commercial turtle
food labels) don’t cover this! I DO wish he’d mentioned pyramiding, since both
Painted & RES can get it. He mentioned the relative percentages of plant &
animal matter in juveniles & adults, but I think he was talking RES. Painteds
are similar but have a more carnivorous bent; wish he’d mentioned that, although
I doubt there’s much practical significance.
Health & Diseases – Tom, Chris H. or Eric B. would be better
choices to review this. The general ‘sick turtle care’ guidelines look good &
inline with what I’d expect. Several problems are discussed individually,
including SCUD (Septicemic Cutaneous Ulcerative Disease). On the other hand,
shell rot (necrotic dermatitis) is only mentioned as a possible complication of
a fresh wound or injury. Egg-bound females are covered, a real plus!
A Note on Salmonella in Turtles – Nice discussion on preventive
measures. I’d like to have seen a brief spiel on what Salmonella is, what a
typical course of Salmonellosis is like (time course, symptoms, severity) & the
fact it’s treatable; maybe even an average % mortality from it.
Summary: An excellent compact concise
complete 28 page booklet on slider & painted care highly recommended for new
hobbyists & an interesting read for the veteran. Even without the video, a
strong offering to get a grounding in the hobby. And how many care guides can do
that in under an hour?
20 minutes Running Time Digitally Mastered VHS Hi-Fi
Given that a VHS tape at low-quality can
hold about 6 hours of video, I was disappointed to see a run time of only 20
minutes. The case has a nice interior cover & the product looks sharp. My
thoughts watching the video:
The quality’s okay but doesn’t seem any better to me than
when I tape regular television with my VCR.
Opening: Fairly brief, tastefully pleasant opening
Andy Highfield comes out; not how I’d pictured him. Makes
me think of a young, leaner Benny Hill. Gives a brief overview re: keeping
turtles that’s well done.
The Turtles: We’re shown side, carapace & plastron
views of a RES & told a bit about it. Then we’re shown an Eastern painted
turtle, but it’s just identified as a Painted Turtle, not one of the 4
distinctive subspecies. We’re shown the same side, carapace & plastron views (a
viewer unfamiliar with painted turtles would think they all look like this!).
It’s said painteds are of similar size to RES; I’d dispute that.
Sexing: We’re shown how to sex adults by front claw
length & tail length & thickness.
Undergravel Filtration Discussion: He shows us a
low-walled rather square tank (like a breeder tank) with a UGF using a powerhead
to move water. He mentions it has 1” of gravel; I’ve heard people recommend
around 3”, & I would for tanks with a smaller footprint or a bit crowded
conditions. He mentions that the amount of oxygenation is a critical factor in
UGF function; given that some of us don’t like noisy surface agitation I’m glad
he mentioned that. The example powerhead discharges water right at the water
surface. He emphasizes the need for a large surface area of UGF coverage.
External Canister Filter Discussion: Opens view a
view of a Fluval 103, an outdated filter you won’t be buying although the brand
is good. We’re shown a video of canister filters, told they need be below the
water line of the tank to work, & shown the tank water going through a hose to
the base of the canister. Highfield says the water enters the base of the filter
(newer models like the Fluval x04, FilStar XP and Eheim Pro II lines actually
run both intake & output into the top of the filter). Media options are shown.
He notes that the water is returned to the tank by means of a spray bar; this is
true with FilStars (only they have a vertical spray bar; he shows a horizontal)
and Eheim’s (which can be oriented any way you like); with the x04 line Fluval
ditched the spray bars. His setup has the spray bar set a few inches above the
water discharging outward; I personally don’t like the splashing racket, but
he’s aiming for maximum oxygenation.
Water Changes Discussion: Here’s where he mentions
the non-drip water changing system, and our good friend the Python is shown. I
wish it was identified by name; perhaps it’s known by a different name in Great
Britain? He mentions that partial water changes are necessary on a routine basis
but doesn’t tell us how often or how much.
Internal (Self-Contained Submersible) Canister Filter
Discussion: Nice discussion; he hits the important points, both good & bad.
He even shows a neat way to hide one! We’re shown a short-term juvenile turtle
setup example that’s tasteful.
Plastic Container Drainage Option: He notes plastic
containers (as opposed to glass) allow you to install drainage valves. He shows
that you can use this to drain water into a bucket; the effect looks like a
Live Plants in the Turtle Tank: Now this tank looks
nice. It’ll make you want one of those squared off breeder tanks! He shows
duckweed; good stuff & I use it, but I wish he’d mentioned it can clog filter
intakes that aren’t very deep, or if outflow creates a strong down current
nearby (like with an AquaClear 500). I’m glad water hyacinth work for him; I
haven’t had any luck with them indoors.
Oxygenation: Emphasizes important of high
oxygenation for UGF’s & canister filters. He endorses using an air pump for this
Heating & Lighting: Discusses importance of water
temp. He shows some kind of odd-looking green plastic heater guard; not Tronic
guard, but makes the point. Discussion of the need for guards & safety. He
endorses about 80 degree water temp.s; many of us rec. 80 for hatchlings but
76-78 for adults. But that’s a difference of opinion, not something I can prove
one way or another. Radiant basking heat discussed. Discusses ultraviolet
radiation’s importance. He discusses heat & full-spectrum/UV-B lighting,
including the need to avoid intervening glass with the latter.
Outdoor & Indoor Ponds: Ah, it’ll make you want one.
Mentions need for plants for water quality & food, but doesn’t name a bunch here
(although water hyacinth are mentioned). I’m glad he shows us good secure
fencing. He shows us an ultraviolet sterilizer & the pump that sends it water.
We’re shown a pond filter. He mentions using ponds for larger turtles, & shows a
pre-formed pond above-ground setup like some of our form members have shown an
interest in. A nice thing about a video is you can actually see just what the
overall setup looks like quickly. A couple of filtration options are discussed
for this pre-formed pond.
Feeding Your Turtles: He shows us options & favors
dusting live foods with powdered supplements. He shows a large RES biting hunks
out of a cuttlebone.
Closing: Brief & Tasteful.
Unfortunately, the Credits give the URL for Vidi-Herp but
not Tortoise Trust.org, a very valuable online treasure trove of freely
available information on much of what the booklet & film cover. The booklet’s
back cover does provide the link to this resource.
Summary: A nice video for a hobbyist new to turtles,
a herpetological society with members interesting in a brief overview on turtle
keeping, or for an enthusiast to educate family & friends with (like if you’re
marrying someone who needs a rough knowledge of why you do the things you do).
The Video & Booklet Package Conclusion: A fine
introduction to keeping sliders & painted turtles, although you’ll learn
considerably more from the 28 page booklet than the 20 minute video. Very useful
to new hobbyists, interesting to enthusiasts (if only to see what THE A.C.
Highfield looks & sounds like) & useful for educating people.
If they ever do a new edition, I’d like to see
a lot more video footage of many different hobbyist setups, modern model
canister filters (preferably comparing Fluval, FilStar & Eheim) & a discussion
of more specific indoor & outdoor aquarium & pond plants. Footage showing large
adult female RES, adults of all 4 subspecies of painted turtle with discussion
of the size differences, & recommendations about minimum enclosure sizes for
different sizes & #’s of adult turtles would be great. Footage of pyramiding & a
discussion of the consequences of abnormally fast growth would be welcome. For
that matter, a discussion of the upper limits of how large a RES should be at 6
months, 1 year & 2 years of age would be quite useful.